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Iraqi officials say protesters gathering around Najaf shrine

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By the Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Iraqi security officials say anti-government protesters have surrounded a key shrine in the southern city of Najaf amid concerns of a new outbreak of violence there.

Mourners grieve over the coffin of Mehdi Kadim, 17, a protester killed during anti-government demonstrations, during his funeral in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.  Hundreds of protesters have died since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces to decry corruption, poor services and lack of jobs. Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse crowds. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Mourners grieve over the coffin of Mehdi Kadim, 17, a protester killed during anti-government demonstrations, during his funeral in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Hundreds of protesters have died since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces to decry corruption, poor services and lack of jobs. Security forces have used live fire, tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse crowds. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil/MANILA BULLETIN)

Tuesday’s demonstration comes after a rare day of calm following weeks of bloodshed across Iraq.

A police official in Najaf says the gathered protesters are demanding that influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr help them enter and symbolically take control of the shrine.

Najaf has been one of the flashpoints in the protest movement, after protesters torched the Iranian Consulate there last week.

Officials say President Barham Salih is meeting with political blocs to come up with a compromise candidate for the premiership after Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation on Friday.

The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

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